With three weeks to go before the NHL trade deadline, forward Tomas Hertl said contract extension talks with the Sharks are continuing, describing negotiations between the two sides as more positive than negative.
“I don’t really want to go overboard…but there have been discussions recently,” Hertl said Tuesday morning. “So we’ll see in a few weeks, but he (started) talking.”
Hertl said last month he was ready to stay with the Sharks this season but wanted a long-term deal. Assistant general manager Joe Will said at the time that despite some salary cap issues, the Sharks hoped to keep Hertl in the organization.
Hertl, 28, is in the final season of a four-year, $22.5 million deal he signed with the Sharks in July 2018 and would become an unrestricted free agent in July if he remains out of contract. .
Hertl would be one of the hottest rentals in the NHL if he and the Sharks can’t agree on a new contract before the March 21 NHL trade deadline, although the Czech-born forward could still re-sign with San Jose this spring if he stays with the team.
However, if there is no deal before the deadline and Hertl is still in San Jose, the Sharks could lose him for nothing in the open market this summer.
“There have been discussions back and forth,” said Hertl, who is represented by Craig Oster. “I don’t want to go into details and lose focus, but we started talking. I think that was, (I would say) positive.
A message left for Will on Tuesday was not immediately returned. On February 10, Will. who has taken on managerial duties while Doug Wilson, is on sick leave, said that “like a lot of other teams in the league, (Hertl) is a player we want on our team, and we’re going to do everything what we can to try to make that happen.
Hertl has become one of the franchise’s leading scorers and most popular players since joining San Jose in 2013.
Heading into Tuesday’s game against the Vegas Golden Knights at T-Mobile Arena, Hertl was second on the Sharks with 42 points in 53 games. He leads all Sharks forwards in average time on the ice (19:46) and leads the NHL in faceoffs at 54.1%.
The Sharks already have four players, Erik Karlsson, Brent Burns, Marc-Edouard Vlasic and Logan Couture, on long-term contracts that currently represent more than 42% of the $81.5 million salary cap. A new deal for Hertl would likely take up a good chunk of the cap space the Sharks have left for next season.
“It’s tough in an environment where there’s a fixed salary cap, and it just makes it a bit more complex how you get to the end result,” Will said. “But right now, we are engaged. Tomas is a big part of our team and we would like to keep him.
The Sharks (24-23-6) entered Tuesday in seventh place in the Pacific Division and seven points behind the Western Conference’s second wildest point. Defender Mario Ferraro is out for the next six to eight weeks with a broken left fibula, but the Sharks could have Karlsson (forearm) back this weekend or early next week.
After Tuesday, the Sharks still have eight games left before the deadline.
Besides Hertl, the other pending free agents for the Sharks are forwards Andrew Cogliano and Alexander Barabanov, as well as defenseman Jaycob Megna.
DAHLEN ALWAYS OUTSIDE: Forward Jonathan Dahlen will miss his second straight game on Tuesday and remains hand-to-mouth. Coach Bob Boughner said Dahlen was cross-checked near the back of his neck in Saturday’s game against Boston and was “experiencing symptoms of whiplash.”
“He was touched during the match, he felt good. The next morning he came for meetings, we didn’t skate, he still felt fine, then when he got in his car to go to the rink (Sunday) evening he was experiencing symptoms.
THE RETURN OF COGLIANO: Forward Andrew Cogliano is back with the Sharks after dealing with a personal issue over the weekend and missing the team’s games against Boston and Seattle. Cogliano was expected to start Tuesday’s game on a line with Nick Bonino and Matt Nieto.